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We’re All Just Copycats: Style Icons

Style is as unique as it is a total sham. We copy, we remix, and we take from those in the spotlight, people otherwise known as style icons.

There are the staples, women that all women love and want to be like: Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Liz Taylor, Rihanna, Beyoncé, or whatever supermodel of the year is being indulged by Vogue Magazine…Karlie Kloss for some time, now one or both of the Hadids and so on.

If you speak with those entrenched in style you might find some cult favorites: Carine Roitfeld or Leandra Medine, for example. And as for men, I’m afraid I’ve not heard many of them claim to be inspired by anyone (dirty liars, they’ve got to have eyes on someone.)

Personally, I’ve got more than a few and I’m certain some of them are obvious, but today I want to tell a story about one of my icons. She keeps coming up in my mind and I suppose these days she’s emerging as my inspiration more than others.

caroline in menswear

Caroline de Maigret, Wanda Nylon, and my first Fashion Week

It was the year 2016. The month of March, early March. Still chilly in Paris, but with some bright sunshine attempting to filter through the city’s characteristic gray, especially beautiful during what the English call “the gloaming” and what the french refer to as “le crépescule.”

My first fashion show ever. I had popped into a presentation for a brand called Sixth June, but it was hardly fashion week caliber—this was the real deal. My friend Hannah and I, invitations late to our mailboxes, shouted our names and our publication at the bouncer amidst the beautiful people.

Inside the drafty and unfinished building I wondered how this was a venue just as much as Grand Palais, but I liked the grittiness.

hannah walking through show venue
Location of the Wanda Nylon show.

The show was Wanda Nylon. I had done very cursory preliminary research on her. Apparently she made some very interesting outerwear.

When we climbed the dark stairs we stumbled upon a makeshift runway, the lights necessary for good photos were all that seemed important. There was hardly anything else save for two or three rows of white benches for guests. I would be standing room, of course.

clear invitation on the floor
An invitation on the floor.

I huddled close to my friend, my only comfort. There might have been champagne, seemed to always be free champagne at these things. And then I gasped quietly and jabbed Hannah in the side. There she was.

Caroline de Maigret right here at the same show I was at. In the flesh. Wearing her typical look: the leather jacket, messy hair, and excellent jeans. She looked so casual, like she had just come in off of the streets to grace us at this show, hardly Chanel or Dries Van Noten. (That’s a thing to like at Paris Fashion Week, it’s not all about status.)

cdm street style
Caroline de Maigret—iconic Parisian model, music producer, and admirable person.

In my fervent excitement, I wondered if I should get a photo or video for our publication, but I thought no, that’d be exploiting this moment. And I couldn’t annoy her in this way, film her like a wild animal. I was jiggling with joy, my legs jittering and I think maybe she noticed because she looked up and smiled at me.

Looked straight at me and smiled. I’ll never forget it. That’s a kindness many who’ve made it in the industry wouldn’t bestow on a nobody.

Eye-skimming bangs, unbrushed hair, and je ne sais quoi

Caroline de Maigret is not your typical fashionista, nor your typical model. She’s not full glam and she has plenty of physical flaws on view. She does not work out, in fact she quite detests it. And, as a New York Times interview so aptly puts it:

“Ms. de Maigret…is a count’s daughter who left the Sorbonne to model, left modeling to produce rock music, and left music to return to modeling.”

Not your run-of-the-mill indeed.

More and more, I find I am reaching for the kind of style she represents, a look that says I don’t have to wash my hair or perfectly blend an eyeshadow. I’ve always loved the unstructured look of loose menswear—clothes that allow you to eat while you’re out.

cdm reading

I should mention too, that’s she’s written a book with her parisian friends, Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan, and Sophie Mas, titled How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits.

And of course it’s one of my bibles, since my day to day lifestyle is attempting to be as parisian as possible.

cdm with wallpaper

To me Caroline de Maigret represents not only a style, but a lifestyle and her decision to write a book about being parisian shows me she understands this concept and is consciously considering her style as more than outward appearance.

There is a sort of preoccupation with the “je ne sais quoi” (the “I don’t know what”) of French women by American women. We’re obsessed with trying to find ways to be them, even if our lives and our culture make that almost impossible. This was made more obvious when I couldn’t even find a copy of the book in France, in french bookstores, that were written in french.

Caroline de Maigret wryly understands this and finds ways to pinpoint the paradoxical, complex, and hypocritical nature of French, specifically parisian women. I especially like her features in YouTube videos on the subject.

Light reading au café

It only makes sense that when I mentally return to de Maigret that I return to the book in question.

A lot of the blathering fashion and life advice I often give (unsolicited most likely…I send warm gratitude to friends who have amused me) is along the same vein of this book. The truth is out. I had to let you think it was all me for as long as possible.

illustrated page

The kind of particular advice in here is enough to make you consider your every move and I’d be confident in claiming that every style icon you follow or genuflect to follows the same kind of meticulous consideration, even if that attitude is to be seemingly carefree. After all, appearing to be careless takes a lot of work.

Parisian women, and I would venture to say this book as well, give us the sort of insight that can lessen the insecurities we may have about our lack of “Riri-ness” or “Chung-ness”, that all of us have a practiced look and attitude. After all, an entire city has a famous practiced attitude, why shouldn’t everyone else?

Pretenders pretending

The above quote caught my eye and its ironic appearance in a book telling me exactly how to be something I may not actually be is the essence of the parisian. She’s just grasping at her passions and trying to pretend she’s doing so casually. It’s exactly why I subscribe to my own blend of stolen icons. The reason we all pretend what we’re doing is natural.

And I think, much with any sort of art, that the art of being a person is rooted in this balancing act. It will be paradoxical, hypocritical, and fickle. It will change from full-glam to au naturel in mere months, days, or seconds.

Much like the constant minute changes in our personalities and philosophies, we have icons to look to, to find inspiration in and to formulate, at the very least, our outward appearance, our armor.

Because you can go to battle with the best ideology, but you’re nothing without some really excellent armor.






Who is your current style icon? Or icon in general?


The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco | BOOKTHS

Welcome back to another book analysis and review of a book so difficult to read it took me far longer than expected.

Eco is not for the faint of heart, this is something I knew ahead of time, since he is a genius with prose. His writing is long and syntactically complex, his subjects expansive and developing at a micro-level. His works are absolutely re-reading material.

Nevertheless, Eco’s writing is a delicious experience for the linguistically-obsessed.

Let’s begin.

Who are you talking about?

Good question. This is Umberto Eco.

umberto eco smoking

I love this man. You don’t understand. I love him. Look at him.

eco with a magnifying glass

This sweet old, pot-bellied italian genius makes me so happy I get so excited to see one of his books in a store, what have you. Unfortunately he died in 2016 and it has saddened me to yet again be bereft of a favorite living author.

I’d recommend him to anyone, but I also know he’s very academic, so it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. It’s work.

Some quick info on Eco: he was born in 1932 in Alessandria in the Italian region Piedmont (recall that Italy only became a democratic nation in 1946 post-WWII). Despite his father’s wish that he pursue law, Eco pursued medieval philosophy and literature at the University of Turin. After that he was a cultural editor for the state broadcasting station where he met some avant-garde artists.

He wrote a book piggy-backing off of his thesis on Aquinas and boom, we have a fantastic semiotician and writer.

The important note here is that he was born pre-Mussolini AND he lived during that angry meatball’s reign. The man knows fascism, he knows censorship, and he writes extensively on those subjects and how they manifest.

Oh and best of all, he had a personal library of 30,000 books in his Milan apartment and 20,000 in his Rimini vacation home (goals.) He died last year at the age of 84.

He used to teach at Bologna University which is 1088 years old. I once stayed in Bologna in a 1000 year old student-housed monastery. I regret not tracking Eco down just to meet him.

They collected passport photos of guests.

What even is the plot?

Glad you asked.

To put it simply, if I even can, in 19th century europe everything is much as it is and has always been: rife with conspiracies and plots. Behind many of these conspiracies and forged documents and domestic terrorism is Simonini (our main character), an agent of the French and Italian secret services.

We follow Simonini in a very, very complex manner, as he wakes up positively flabbergasted by the fact that he appears to be sharing his apartment with a priest he does not know. He begins to write in his diary, noticing that Abbé Della Piccola—the mysterious priest—responds in kind with the same amnesia.

The narrator clarifies sections for us, since he is reading the diary decades after its actual use.

Very complex, you see?

Eco in his library.

From Turin to Paris, Simonini uses his grandfather’s teachings on anti-semitism and hatred for Jesuits/freemasons as fuel to incite violence for the government, as he slowly begins to write a document that will change the world for the worse.

His incendiary document is titled the Prague Cemetery. Simonini writes the dramatic piece with borrowed scenery and ideas from older, racist and extremist writings to build an illusion of truth as he creates a scene of rabbis meeting to plan their destruction of the modern world.

As Eco says in his Paris Review Interview that I highly suggest reading, “Simonini is a forger, and understands that in order to tell secret information to a secret service you always have to tell what is already known. Otherwise they will not believe you.”

That’s all well and good, a book about a forger who feeds governments fake information and secretly works in his hateful agenda—very interesting.

I’ll let you in on a secret. The documents in this book, as well the characters, are nearly all real. The Prague Cemetery? The forged anti-semitic document? It’s based on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Guess who referenced that fabricated anti-semitic piece in his book?


“How much the whole existence of this people is based on a permanent falsehood is apparent in the famous Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Every week the Frankfurter Zeitung whines that they are based on a forgery: and here lies the best proof that they are genuine…When this book becomes the common heritage of all people, the Jewish peril can then be considered as stamped out.” Hitler, Mein Kampf

Now that’s juicy….and scary

Yep. I audibly gasped at the conclusion of this novel. I couldn’t believe it that in all the despicable events and thoughts I had read, sometimes disgusting enough for me to put the book down in horror, I was reading truth. Eco only created one character: Simonini.

“All the others (except for a few incidental minor characters such as Notaio Rebaudengo and Ninuzzo) actually existed, and said and did what they are described as saying and doing in this novel.” Eco, The Prague Cemetery, “Useless Learned Explanations”

Even the illustrations in the novel are real portraits half of the time or real propaganda. Eco says it creates an “oscillatory function” in which you are shocked to discover that the normal, fiction-like function of a story is suddenly very real.

And of course it’s real. Of course there are all kinds of forged documents fed to governments and the masses to create fear, motivation, anger, what have you. The instances of planned violence in this novel—the bombings, the use of extremist students and groups as pawns to make public arrests or create safety or discontent. Of course it’s real.

You see it everyday. The note at the beginning of The Prague Cemetery says the reader will “look anxiously behind him, switch on all the lights, and suspect that these things could happen again today. In fact, they may be happening in that very moment.”

Nothing is new, is it? Nothing is ever new.

The book featuring my dog, who wanted to sniff literally every page.

What is the reading like?

It is not easy. Not solely because it’s Eco, since he is quite readable after being a pop culture author from The Name of the Rose, but because our main character is a bigot. He hates women, he hates Jewish people, he hates Jesuits and Freemasons, he even hates French people and he lives in France for many years.

“The German lives in a state of perpetual intestinal embarrassment due to an excess of beer and pork sausages on which he gorges himself.” (Eco, 6.)

“Priests…They are idle and belong to a class as dangerous as thieves and vagrants.” (Eco, 12.)

“I hate women, from what little I know of them.” (Eco, 14.)

And I could not forget his hatred of the Jews.

“My grandfather described those eyes that spy on you, so false as to turn you pale, those unctuous smiles, those hyena lips over bared teeth, those heavy, polluted, brutish looks, those restless creases between nose and lips, wrinkled by hatred, that nose of theirs like the beak of a southern bird…” (Eco, 5.)

Simonini also has an erotic obsession with food, so at the very least we encounter many beautiful descriptions of foreign foods that you’ve likely never heard of. At least the bigot has nice thoughts on restaurant meals.

We must mire through a rather despicable mind, we must go where we never want to go, to the place where angry and motivated people wallow. I can assure you it’s not a breeze, but I do think it’s vitally important.

Like this passage, which is chilling and horrible, which details Simonini’s “contribution” to mass genocide of the Jewish race:

“I wouldn’t have to destroy them myself—I am (as a rule) a man who recoils from physical violence—but I knew how it had to be done, since I lived through the days of the Commune. Take gangs of men who are well trained and indoctrinated, and drag anyone you meet with a hooked nosed and curly hair straight up against the wall. You’d end up losing a few Christians but, in the words of the bishop who had to attack Béziers when it was occupied by the Cathars, it is better to be prudent and kill the lot. God will recognize his own.

As it is written in their Protocols, the end justifies the means.” (Eco, 426.)

First: Simonini has murdered multiple times by this point in the book, ironically, for a man who “recoils from physical violence.”

Second: Reading this makes me uneasy and queasy.

And so?

Ultimately, this novel on 19th century conspiracies, written in 2011, is uncannily relevant. I would highly recommend it to anyone seeking understanding in the realm of false information or the dissemination of mainstream information.

Of course after Charlottesville and in this tumultuous time, some wonder how things got suddenly bad and, of course, any oppressed member of society will tell you it did not suddenly become tumultuous. Indeed, the soup of hatred has been simmering and boiling over and simmering again for centuries.

The violence of white men is old. It’s in Colombine, in Timothy McVeigh at Oklahoma City, in the extremism of masculinity, in colonization, and in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. I don’t have time to type it all out. But if you need a way to understand the age of conspiracy, of forgery, and of the libel of the “other”, perhaps begin with The Prague Cemetery.

I should say Eco has a sister collection of essays titled Inventing the Enemy. I will do my best to get to it as soon as possible.

Bisous à tout le monde et tout qui souffre,


Sources used:

Eco, Umberto. The Prague Cemetery. New York, Mariner Books, 2010.

“Umberto Eco.” Umberto Eco Biography, Accessed 17 Aug. 2017.


Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf | BOOKTHS

Bookths is back after a whirlwind of graduating and life changes.

I also bought about 30 or more so books at a fill-your-own-box book sale at CASE in Downtown Cleveland.

claire with a box of books
Pictured: me downplaying my pride and trying to make copious literary purchasing seem cool to the youth.

So, I will have plenty more material to work with in the future. As of this moment, let’s talk Woolf.

I wrote a story in the last semester of college and drew some inspiration from Virginia herself, drawing some parallels to her rather upsetting suicide, when she filled her pockets with rocks and let herself sink into the river before another war broke out.

As she is one of THE MOST influential authors in history and of the modern (20th century) period, people are often shocked that I haven’t read any of her novels. Which, considering the amount of classic novels and must-reads out there, you’ll have to cut me some slack as I try to sprint through them all.

In the middle of a rather desperate moment of self-doubt, I had driven to the library to ease my mind (something 13 year-old me was fond of) and went traipsing through the fiction section, saw Mrs. Dalloway and its relatively small stature, decided I could fit it into my eight other current reads (I don’t know how, because no, I couldn’t) and here we are. Let’s break it down.

The Author:

Virginia Woolf is one of the big dogs of literature. If you want to talk literature, you better talk Woolf (and I certainly didn’t until now.) As I mentioned, her contribution to writing happened in the 20th century, so her work is considered modernist. And, if you’ve ever read The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, you know about the stream-of-consciousness style of writing, which is something Virginia Woolf pioneered.

Profile of young Virginia Woolf

She was London-based, born of a rich family, and went to Kings College London—a smart cookie! Between WWI and WWII (sheesh what a time to be alive) Virginia Woolf was a central part of London’s literary scene and, later on, became a figure for second-wave feminism with her works highly regarded world-wide and translated into over fifty languages.

Who is Mrs. Dalloway, what’s going on?

Now that my Wikipedia explanation of Woolf is over, we can get to the story. There are a whole lot of characters in this book which covers a single day in our titular character’s life, as she prepares for a party. Sounds like it’s going nowhere, right? Oh how incorrect one can be.

  1. Mrs. Dalloway (Clarissa): Our main character, the woman who is throwing a party later. She is often described as having buckets and buckets of charm but also as all too stiff and strict in her character. During her day, she reminisces on her marriage to Richard in lieu of Peter and, if after all, one made her happier than the other.
  2. Peter Walsh: Clarissa’s old flame, he worked in India where he fell in love with a married woman. Peter has a habit of opening and closing a knife while he’s nervous and often projects a desperate and loathing energy towards Clarissa, whom he still loves but recognizes the impossibility of their match. Others describe him as adventurous, smart, and interesting, but far too desperate to be in love to ever be successful. No one wants to help him get a job, which reminds me a bit of Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Illyich, when a man dies and at his funeral everyone spends time dividing his possessions and position in lieu of mourning him.
  3. Richard Dalloway: Clarissa’s husband, a clear-minded man who isn’t nearly as romantic as Peter Walsh, but does indeed love Clarissa even if he misunderstands her. There is a lovely scene regarding Richard’s purchasing of flowers for her and wanting her to see that it means he loves her, because he is incapable of saying “I love you” to her (which raises the question: does he in fact love her?) This is after he chooses not to purchase her jewelry, not knowing her taste—a heartbreaking hint to how they are strangers to each other.
  4. Septimus Warren Smith: War veteran and husband to Lucrezia Smith, he suffers from what appears to be PTSD or a form of depression (much like Woolf herself) and, after promising his wife he would kill himself, is presented to a doctor. To the  first doctor, he attaches all of human error to, a living symbol. Septimus is unable to feel reality, sees it all as something false and the people in it as unaware of the tragedy they live. He is coded as Clarissa’s foil.
  5. Sally Seton: Clarissa, Peter, and Richard’s old friend, albeit closest to Clarissa and Peter. She is fun-loving, wild, and openly passionate. She seems to facilitate communication between stubborn and prude Clarissa and to obstinately romantic Peter, acting as their medium. She works quite well as a contrast to them both, but also as a hint as to what Clarissa and Peter desired and what everyone else expected of them.
  6. Miss Kilman: A deeply religious and deeply spiteful woman who instructs Clarissa and Richard’s daughter in history, as she is among the British experts of history. She is well-educated, but poor and plain-looking. Using her religious fervor as a self-righteous justification, she is openly rude to Clarissa whom she sees as materialistic and vain.
  7. Sir William Bradshaw: A premier doctor for mental patients, of whom he says over and over again, simply need to realign their sense of “proportion.” I can’t say much about him, because of how he manifests in this story…you’ll just have to read it!
  8. Elizabeth Dalloway: The daughter of Clarissa and Richard. Someone I deem important in relation to her parents and thus, their characters. She is not her mother by all accounts and is used against her mother by way of Miss Kilman, yet there are moments where she and Clarissa collide and make sense of each other.

The plot of this book is relatively difficult to describe, it being mainly a hop-skip-jump from character to character as we swim through their thoughts. To sum it up Clarissa Dalloway is having an important party, Peter Walsh is back from India to get a job and try to bring back his lover from India, Sally Seton shows up, Septimus gets hospitalized, and we finally get to have our party at the end. As for the rest, the details are beautiful, the phrasing immaculate, so that I can’t do it justice. (See: read it.)

What of it:

Who cares about the day in the life of some rich old white lady in England? Why bother with a book of no chapters and hardly any paragraph indentations? What is the meaning of this single day?

“She had the perpetual sense, as she watched the taxi cabs, of being out, out, far out to sea and alone; she always had the feeling that it was very, very, dangerous to live even one day.”

Honestly, it’s a dense and complex piece that requires re-reading (the best kind of book) and my impressions at the moment are as follows: Woolf is a masterful writer, her turns of phrase and her figurative language is appallingly rich in meaning. This is a novel that reflects a modernist conundrum—remember we are pre-WWII and post-WWI, the game of world politics and violence has changed—in which the frivolity of modern life is set against a backdrop of astounding violence. The utter meaningless nature of a party, a marriage, and the past are pit against the overwhelming weight of what it means to live and exist.

Or, at least that’s how I saw it.


That’s two down: Nemesis by Agatha Christie and Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I’m in the midst of The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco, so I hope to have that wrapped up soon. Warning: it’s a doozy.

As always, thank you for joining me, if you did.



A Bit of A Non-Paradox: Bitter Words Between Bloggers and Editors

Whether we like it or not, fashion bloggers and influencers are here to stay—or, at the very least, here to usher in the impending changes of the fashion industry. And if they be only the winds of change here for their moment of glory, bloggers have made an awfully large wave.

Vogue published a roundtable discussion after Milan fashion week with some choice words slipped in regarding the industry’s newcomers. After lauding Marni’s “intelligent and elegant” collection for it’s refusal to exist for clicks,’s chief critic Sarah Mower said: “…the professional blogger bit, with the added aggression of the street photographer swarm who attend them, is horrible, but most of all, pathetic for these girls, when you watch how many times the desperate troll up and down outside shows, in traffic, risking accidents even, in hopes of being snapped.” (Vogue.)

Other Vogue editors, chiming in with the critique, went on to despair over the blogger and brand love affair in triumphant tones, wherein fashion news editor Alessandra Codinha said “Am I allowed to admit that I did a little fist pump when Sally broached the blogger paradox?”

Clearly the politics of power here are shifting because, as always, money talks. Meaning, of course, that the influencers brands choose to spend money on are in possession of a fair amount of power and have a loud enough voice to be chosen, whether they be fashion bloggers or fashion industry royalty.


“…if they be only the winds of change here for their moment of glory, bloggers have made an awfully large wave.”


And, regarding this labeling of the industry-wide panic due to sprinting technological change and globalization as the “blogger paradox” one has to ask: what is paradoxical about the power of the blogger?


Certainly the idea of advertising for a brand in exchange for money is nothing new. In fact, Vogue’s March 2016 issue had the highest number of advertisement pages with a staggering 405 pages, according to WWD. And, with a quick search online, one can see the cost of an advertisement that appears once on 1/6th of the page is $44,206. In comparison to Vogue’s primary competitor, Hearst’s Harper’s Bazaar, 1/3 page advertisement goes for $79,025 while the same ad space goes for $88,481 at Vogue. How can a publication under Condé Nast that charges staggering rates for their advertisements have the right to judge sponsored clothing?

Whether or not the bloggers are maliciously grasping at whatever money comes their way is difficult to judge or discover, but a recent study by Fashion Monitor and Econsultancy dove into the scope of bloggers and influencers’ effect on the fashion industry. Despite the popular and assumed idea that bloggers are attention-starved Internet stars without regard for the soul of the industry, about 56 percent of them consider a brand’s values and priorities (sustainability, charity, etc) before working with them. A similar percentage consider their personal development as high in priority, even over money, a consideration that came in around 12 percent.

Further debunking the myth that bloggers care about their follower count above all else, around 54 percent feel judged and valued by their follower count over their other qualities. Certainly many of these bloggers would rather their value be placed in their work and goals than what number digitally rises and falls on an Instagram account. Brands seem to be the ones running the show in terms of industry morals; after all, a blogger can only do so much to be valuable without the baseline follower count, which is chosen by a brand in most cases. Perhaps Vogue editors should be worried about the ruthlessness of the brands that hand out money by a chosen digital hierarchy rather than those who are influential enough to attract the money.


What then, is this “blogger paradox”? Is it the frustration of traditional fashion editors as they face the overwhelming popularity and presence of fashion bloggers? After investigation, there doesn’t appear to be a clear conclusion.

This so-called “paradox” could be a scapegoat for deeper concerns, concerns hidden behind an ambiguous vocabulary term to lessen their surface level importance. There is a real fear in jeopardizing the quality of work and the nature of the change that bloggers usher in. After all, the other half of those bloggers who don’t consider the values and issues surrounding the brands that sponsor them may be the very people who are trouncing around in borrowed style.

And, ultimately, how can one be a style icon without having style oneself? Do these blogger’s have any background or knowledge in the fashion industry, and do they know what they’re looking at? Certainly, the army of phones facing runways (in lieu of actual eyes) is alarming. These concerns that Vogue editors brazenly expresses aren’t unfounded.

The plight of newspaper journalists comes to mind, as they fight against increased online competition, with blogs and Snapchat and Instagram beating them out despite their professional training. Fashion journalists are no different; they’re threatened and unsure of the future.

One thing is for certain: the relationship between these groups of influencers ought to be cooperative if either group prioritizes the good of the fashion industry. They might be able to shape the tides of fashion’s future, should bloggers contribute their mass appeal and editors share their industry wisdom. Whether or not they’ll play nice is an entirely different story.